It’s been a magical year for former Cardinals defensive lineman Calais Campbell, who went for the big money in Jacksonville as a free agent all the while insisting the Jaguars could win this year — and he was right. It’s been in no small part because of Campbell, who had a career-high 14.5 sacks and was named Wednesday as the Pro Football Writers of America’s choice as NFL defensive player of the year.
Obviously, Campbell’s career was built in Arizona, regardless of what happens in Jacksonville. That subject came up during Campbell’s press conference this week prior to the AFC championship game, as Campbell was asked about his huge year as a 31-year-old. Campbell said he simply has worked hard to make sure he has stayed in shape and preserved his body — something he had to learn in his early years as a Cardinal.
“When I was younger I wasn’t as active in taking care of my body,” Campbell said. “But I did have some good leadership from guys that taught me how to take care of my body, so it becomes just a habit. That makes a big difference. I’ve got to take my hat off to Larry Fitzgerald and Darnell Dockett. They were two guys that definitely pushed me to take care of my body at a young age and I think that’s really paying off now.”
Tags: Calais Campbell, Darnell Dockett, Larry Fitzgerald
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As mentioned the other day, the Cardinals still have a vacancy on their 90-man roster. Bruce Arians, during an interview on Arizona Sports, indicated that the Cards could still re-sign veteran running back Chris Johnson, which has always been a possibility as long as Johnson remained on the market.
With all that in mind, a quick look at the notable veterans General Manager Steve Keim has signed in the days prior or during training camp while the Cardinals are at University of Phoenix Stadium:
2013 — T Eric Winston (started all season), LB John Abraham (led team in sacks), K Dan Carpenter (signed as competition to Jay Feely, lost battle.)
2014 — T Max Starks (eventually released at end of camp), DT Tommy Kelly (had a solid season as a replacement for the injured Darnell Dockett.)
2015 — TE Jermaine Gresham (has been team’s top tight end since), C Lyle Sendlein (started all season), RB Chris Johnson (played well before late-season injury.)
2016 — LB Donald Butler (released during final cuts), CB Mike Jenkins (was in line to start until tearing ACL).
Odds favor a couple more signings in this camp, necessary either because of play or injury. Whether they make a difference (see: 2016) we will see, but as always, the roster is churning.
Tags: Chris Johnson, Dan Carpenter, Darnell Dockett, Donald Butler, Eric Winston, free agency, Jay Feely, Jermaine Gresham, John Abraham, Lyle Sendlein, Max Starks, Mike Jenkins, Steve Keim, Tommy Kelly, training camp
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With my retrospective about Larry Fitzgerald’s memorable 2008 playoff run due to post Monday at azcardinals.com, it’s fitting to have Fitz and his Cardinals’ draft class come up in an ESPN article about each team’s best draft classes ever. It goes back to the first common draft of 1967. The ranking is based on a tool created by profootballreference.com called “approximate value,” which is based on games, starts, awards and some meaningful individual stats. Winning games factors in. Obviously, the longer a player stays with the team that drafted him matters, and so would volume.
That’s why it would matter that the draft shrunk to seven rounds in 1994. It was 17 rounds in 1967, and 12 from 1977-1993. More chances to find players in a class. The Cardinals’ draft class of 2004 made at No. 18. That’s no surprise. It was a fabulous class, with Fitzgerald in the first round, Karlos Dansby in the second round and Darnell Dockett in the third round. Defensive end Antonio Smith, who started for the 2008 Super Bowl team, was a fifth-round pick.
(The other three picks from that class — fourth-round center Alex Stepanovich, sixth-round guard/center Nick Leckey, seventh-round quarterback John Navarre.)
Only one team — the Ravens, with their 1996 class of Hall of Famers Jonathan Ogden and Ray Lewis — has their draft class ranked higher than the Cardinals when their class in the seven-round era. The extra rounds (and no unrestricted free agency before 1992) helped many other teams have their best drafts long ago.
Fitz is still going strong, and Dansby has returned for a third tour with the team (and will build that draft class value again). Dockett is retired, but Smith hasn’t shut it down yet, playing for the Texans last season.
Tags: Antonio Smith, Darnell Dockett, draft, Karlos Dansby, Larry Fitzgerald
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Antrel Rolle retired Monday, although the former Cardinals safety retired a lot like many players end up doing — the decision was pretty much made for him, with no interest out there. Rolle admitted on NFL Network’s “Good Morning Football” spending the back half of the 2015 on injured reserve with the Chicago Bears and being 33 didn’t help his current status.
“I’m done,” Rolle said, adding, “I’m at total peace with that.”
Rolle — who left the Cardinals after the 2009 season, and more on that in a moment — was just in Arizona this summer attending the retirement press conference of fellow former Card Darnell Dockett. (That’s Rolle to the left in the photo below, talking to Adrian Wilson.) Wilson was already retired, and another former teammate who was there — Antonio Smith — sounded like he was considering it, although Smith ended up re-signing with the Texans after J.J. Watt got hurt.
Rolle’s five years with the Cardinals were interesting, as was his departure. Drafted eighth overall in 2005 to play cornerback for Dennis Green, Rolle eventually moved to safety — a position many assumed he’d eventually play even from the time he was drafted. He had a memorable game in 2007 in Cincinnati, returning two Carson Palmer interceptions for touchdowns and actually did it a third time only to have the score called back on a questionable roughing call post-pick on none other than Smith.
He was young and brash, like Dockett and Karlos Dansby, on a defense that wasn’t always consistent but that stood up during that 2008 Super Bowl run. His six-year rookie contract was bulky though, put together in a day long before rookie slotting. So coming into 2010, with a $4 million roster bonus due and an $8 million salary, the Cardinals — who tried and failed to get an extension done — released Rolle. He became part of the star-studded exodus that offseason (Kurt Warner, Dansby, Anquan Boldin as well) that shifted dramatically the Ken Whisenhunt era.
Rolle went on to get not only his big money (there was a similar offer from the Cards Rolle turned down) but big attention in New York with the Giants, making three Pro Bowls, making many headlines with his blunt talk on a weekly radio show, and winning a Super Bowl. It turned out to be a nice career. Although his stint in Arizona feels like a lifetime ago.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Anquan Boldin, Antrel Rolle, Carson Palmer, Darnell Dockett, Karlos Dansby, Kurt Warner
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One last thing about Darnell Dockett as his retirement settles in: Dockett talked about walking a thin line, but never really crossing it. “That’s just my personality,” he told Bertrand Berry on Berry’s radio show. “I was determined to create funny and hilarious moments my entire career.”
That’s something to keep in mind when people think back to much of the stirring up he did on social media. Yes, he showed himself taking a shower on UStream to win a wager. But all those other things? The day he tweeted while at jury duty, that didn’t really happen. Much to PETA’s chagrin, those times when he suggested he was going to get/he got a pet alligator or pet tiger? Even his traffic stops he tweeted about? Think very carefully about the source — Dock often just wanted to create a “moment.”
“In my next 20 years it’s going to be the same thing, it’ll just be more exciting because I don’t have rules,” Dockett said. “I won’t let people down, I won’t have to go talk to (VP of media relations) Mark Dalton every Monday morning before practice.
“You’re talking about a guy who walked a thin line but never got in trouble. I never got arrested, I never got suspended for games, besides the Whisenhunt thing, but that don’t count though. I don’t count that as a suspension. That was just somebody getting mad.”
“That’s what people fail to realize,” Dockett said. “People say Darnell la-la-la, but I never got in trouble. Never been on the news for anything bad, always Darnell is living his damn life — through an NFL career where they want you to be caged.”
That’s why, when Adrian Wilson said “There are heroes, there are villains, and there’s Dockett,” everyone who had been around Darnell just nodded in agreement. It was an apt description.
Tags: Darnell Dockett, Ken Whisenhunt, Kerry Rhodes
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This week was once going to be the return of defensive tackle Darnell Dockett to University of Phoenix Stadium, after the Cardinals released him in March and he subsequently signed with the San Francisco 49ers a short time later. But that didn’t quite work out when Dockett found himself released by the 49ers at the end of the preseason. Dockett remains a free agent.
The reason Dockett is no longer playing in San Francisco is simple, 49ers coach Jim Tomsula said. It was the drafting of fellow defensive lineman Arik Armstead in the first round.
“I’ve always respected everything Darnell has done on the football field,” Tomsula said. “He got here, and quite frankly, didn’t realize we’d be drafting a defensive lineman in the first round. From there, didn’t really realize how quick Arik’s progression was going to be. Coming out of Oregon, he was one of those trimester guys (rookies can’t participate in the offseason work until their school year ends) so you’re thinking we’re not going to have him for anything in the offseason.
“Then Arik got in here … that was a tough one, man.”
Dockett remains a free agent. (He is not expected to be brought back to Arizona.) He hasn’t gone away — recently he took part in this video piece about his search for the murderer of his mother, who was killed when Dockett was 13.
Tags: 49ers, Darnell Dockett
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It was shocking for many when the Cardinals cut Darnell Dockett earlier this offseason (at this point, it seems like two years ago) because he was set to make too much money. Then, in a fashion that was perhaps fitting with the defensive lineman, an inability to come to terms on a lower-priced deal with the Cards ended with Dockett signing with the division rival 49ers and Darnell promising a huge battle when he returned to University of Phoenix Stadium.
Except it’s not going to happen. Dockett, despite getting $2 million guaranteed from the Niners, is being released, so that might just say where Dockett is in his playing form. It’s tough for Dockett, who after ripping up his knee in the 2014 preseason has only played a little in the preseason after missing all last year. He’s currently dealing with a rib injury.
The first thing many wonder — and I know, because I was bombarded on Twitter — is whether the Cards might bring him back. No, I don’t see that happening. There is a reason the Cardinals were willing to release him in the first place. They wanted to get younger (Dockett is 34) at the position, and they have done that with Ed Stinson (who was basically drafted as a Dockett replacement) and Xavier Williams and Rodney Gunter and maybe even Josh Mauro. Maybe Dockett has just reached the end of the line. It happens, no matter how frustrating that can be for player or fans. To a much lesser extent, Dockett’s guns blazing going out the door — he didn’t have too many good things to say about the situation, in complete opposite of how Adrian Wilson handled his release once upon a time — doesn’t help.
UPDATE: Asked if the Cards might have interest, Bruce Arians said “not at this point.”
It’ll be interesting to see if he gets picked up, where and even when. At this point, Dockett may be the veteran who has to wait until after Week 1 to sign so that a team wouldn’t have to guarantee his salary for the season — so that if they feel he wasn’t working out, they could cut him. It’s the harsh reality.
Tags: Adrian Wilson, Darnell Dockett
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Bruce Arians mentioned early in training camp he would have liked to have a joint practice with another team in training camp, to break up the monotony and to raise the level of practice that inevitably comes with going against another team rather than teammates. Given how averse Arians is to training camp fights, however, maybe it’s good that the Cardinals never did work that out.
The Rams-Cowboys joint practice donnybrook Tuesday was just the latest in joint practice battles. The Redskins and Texans got into it earlier this month and last training camp, it was the Cowboys and Raiders. The two this month were bad enough that the joint practices were called off and the teams went to practice on separate fields.
It would be interesting to see what Arians would do if his players got into a training camp tussle with another team. He’s made no bones about it happening with his own team — last summer’s Darnell Dockett/Bradley Sowell laps and then a separate abrupt end to practice underscored the head coach’s feelings on the subject. (The apple doesn’t fall far from the coaching tree either. Todd Bowles made the Jets run because of a practice fight recently.)
And while there are plenty that feel there is good that can come out of a camp scrap — ask Ron Wolfley — there is tangible evidence the downside is too great. The Cardinals know about injuries. Back in 2003, guard Leonard Davis broke his hand punching defensive end Kyle Vanden Bosch. (Amazingly, my story at the time is still floating around on the internet.) That’s never good.
Tags: Bradley Sowell, Bruce Arians, Cowboys, Darnell Dockett, Kyle Vanden Bosch, Leonard Davis, Rams, Redskins, Texans, Todd Bowles, training camp
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The Cardinals signed linebacker Darryl Sharpton last week and the timing meant something. By signing Sharpton Wednesday, the Cardinals cleared the date for free agents signing counting against them for next year’s compensatory pick equation. Any free agent signed at the point will not count.
(The Cardinals were awarded one comp pick this past draft; they ended up with the final selection of the whole thing, which they used on Lousiville tight end Gerald Christian.)
It’s too early to know exactly how the comp pick equation might play out. Part of how it’s determined is playing time in the upcoming season. It also takes into account how much money for which each player signed. A quick look at who the Cardinals could have counting for and against them in the comp pick equation next draft. As always, a quick reminder that if a player was cut by the Cards or cut by another team, he does not qualify on these lists. For example, losing Darnell Dockett does not factor in because Dockett was released.:
FREE AGENTS GAINED
G Mike Iupati (5 years, $40M)
DT Corey Peters (3 years, $10.5M)
DE Cory Redding (2 years, $6M)
LB Sean Weatherspoon (1 year, $3.6M)
FREE AGENTS LOST
LB Sam Acho (1 year, $825,000)
CB Antonio Cromartie (4 years, $32M)
G Paul Fanaika (3 years, $6.1M)
TE Rob Housler (1 year, $1.76M)
DT Dan Williams (4 years, $25M)
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see GM Steve Keim make another signing (or two) at some point before camp, or even into camp. But the numbers are set for the compensatory math.
Tags: Antonio Cromartie, compensatory picks, Corey Peters, Cory Redding, Dan Williams, Darnell Dockett, free agency, Mike Iupati, Paul Fanaika, Rob Housler, Sam Acho, Sean Weatherspoon, Steve Keim
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The spring owners meetings get underway Monday here in town at the Biltmore, and among the many things that will go on will be the annual reveal of the compensatory picks for April’s draft.
A quick refresher for those who don’t know about comp picks: Each year, there are a bunch of extra draft picks sprinkled in through the draft (starting in the third round) that are awarded to teams with a net loss of free agents from the year before. The exact formula for doling out picks isn’t public, but it’s a mixture of the player, his free agent contract and performance. Basically, if you lose more free agents than you sign, you’ll get an extra pick or two.
(Or more, perhaps. Baltimore often lets players leave as free agents with the idea of stockpiling comp picks to replenish the roster with cheap labor. It’s great if you hit on many draft picks. The Ravens have made it an art form.)
As for the Cardinals, overthecap.com has estimated that the Cards are in line for an extra seventh-round pick. Now, there are caveats to the various qualifying players in this admittedly complicated guesswork. The Cards could conceivably get an extra fifth-rounder instead of a seventh or maybe no comp pick at all. As it stands, the Cardinals have their seven original draft picks, starting with the 24th overall in the first round. Last season, the Cardinals added tackle Jared Veldheer, wide receiver Ted Ginn, guard Ted Larsen and running back Jonathan Dwyer in free agency. They lost linebacker Karlos Dansby, wide receiver Andre Roberts, tight end Jim Dray and cornerbacks Antoine Cason and Javier Arenas. (Players that are cut by their previous team do not factor in the equation, which is why bringing in Antonio Cromartie did not hurt the Cards in this example and why losing Darnell Dockett this year will not help in next year’s comp equation.)
Tags: Andre Roberts, Antoine Cason, Antonio Cromartie, compensatory picks, Darnell Dockett, draft, Jared Veldheer, Javier Arenas, Jim Dray, Jonathan Dwyer, Karlos Dansby, Ravens, Ted Ginn, Ted Larsen
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